Having crazy dreams? Rejoice!
“A dream seems like reality as long as we are in it.” — Carl Jung
On March 5th, I ran the Tokyo International Marathon together with about 38,000 runners from all over the world to complete my six-star journey of running London, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, and New York City marathons. With 3,032 runners, I got into the Guinness World Record for the most runners obtaining their six-star medal at the Tokyo marathon. This accomplishment that took me five years to achieve was as wild as my flying dreams that I often had as a child.
On my way back to Sacramento from Tokyo, I sat next to a Japanese Canadian woman, who shared her views about both Japan and Canada. I was reading The Japanese Mind, Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture on the airplane. My new Japanese Canadian friend’s explanations were better than my book, as she had lived half of her life in Japan. She was thin and taller than your typical Japanese woman. She told me how happy she was living in Canada.
“I used to dream of escaping the strict rules of my country when I was a kid,” she told me. “I used to fly in almost every dream, which since I made Canada my permanent makes perfect sense,” she continued.
“Wait a second! Did you fly in your dreams repeatedly?”
“Yeah, almost every night,” she replied with a chuckle.
“I used to fly in my dreams often as well when I grew up in communist Romania and looked to escape to a better place,” I said.
“Wow! We were both trying to fly away — first in our dreams and then for real,” she replied with a twinkle in her small black eyes.
I nodded, realizing that I just met a perfect stranger who had experienced moments of inspiration by flying in her dreams just like me.
Dreams determine the quality of REM sleep
In a recent article Are you getting enough REM sleep? The answer might be in your dreams (msn.com) published by USA Today a 2021 phone poll revealed that only 34% of Americans “sometimes” remember their dreams. About 1 in 10 say they “almost always” can, and the same percentage say they “never” do.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is a stage of semi-deep sleep, often referred to as “paradoxical sleep,” and is “a state of sleep when brain activity shows similar patterns as being awake,” says Wendy Troxel, PhD, a sleep expert at the RAND Corporation and author of Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep. Troxel explained that during REM sleep, one’s brain is very active, “but the body is essentially paralyzed,” or in a state of sleep paralysis. He added that REM sleep is also the sleep stage in which most dreams occur, so one’s muscle paralysis is believed to be the body’s way of protecting itself from acting out one’s dream.
“Dreams do occur in other stages of sleep,” explained Troxel, “but the most vivid and often bizarre types of dreams tend to occur in REM.”
Troxel added that just as a healthy eating diet is not comprised of any one food group alone, “healthy sleep is comprised of all stages of sleep, including REM.” “It’s a myth that REM sleep is more or less important than any other stage of sleep, including light or deep non-REM sleep.”
How much REM sleep is enough?
While babies can average 8 hours of REM sleep, most adults average only about 2 hours of REM sleep each night.
“Rather than getting too hung up on whether you are getting enough REM sleep or deep sleep,” advises Troxel, “the best strategy is to follow some basic healthy sleep habits which promote overall good sleep quality during all sleep stages.”
When it comes to healthy sleep habits, we should all follow this great advice outlined by Clare Mulroy in her article What is sleep hygiene? Tips to help improve quantity, quality of sleep (usatoday.com).
- Stay consistent to establish a sleeping pattern, such as not taking longer than 30-minute naps during the day (I feel guilty about this one, as I napped for 1.5 hours this afternoon, as I was tired after my hilly 10-mile run).
- Having a wind-down process that should happen outside of the bedroom is also important.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, food, and electronics. I sometimes drink green tea close to bedtime, which makes me stay awake, so I try to end drinking tea by 8 p.m., or sooner.
- Exercise regularly, which is my forte, as I sleep like a log almost every night. I run five to six days a week and play tennis about twice a week, so this part is natural for me, but for others, it might feel difficult to accomplish. If that’s the case, an evening stroll might help you sleep better and maybe you’ll even fly in your sleep.
I never thought that flying in my sleep as a child — I rarely dream that I am flying anymore as an adult, will be such a source of inspiration and understanding that I was seeking to escape my life in communist Romania. Once I moved to the USA, I stopped flying in my dreams, but my vivid and crazy dreams continue to crawl into my memory till I retrieve them in the morning.
I could also tell you about the cherry blossoms, my first time at the onsen (Japanese hot springs), and the many temples and shrines that I visited during my first trip solo trip to Tokyo, but my biggest moment of inspiration was the realization that I had to keep flying in my dreams for creative and health reasons.